When Polish champions Slask Wroclaw drew Buducnost Podgorica in the second qualifying round of the Champions League I doubt they could’ve imagined what lay in store for them. There are certain clubs or countries that fans would be weary of travelling to, especially considering the strong reputation of Polish Ultras and the willingness of some groups to challenge them. Montenegro is not one of those places however. Buducnost are known for having a reasonable Ultras group but nothing on the level of the major Balkan nations. Montenegro is known more for its stunning scenery and tourism than brutality and danger for visitors. That perception however wasn’t the reality the thousand or so visiting Polish fans faced.
The trip from Wroclaw is roughly 1,500km and there were no suitable trains so the fans had to travel by road. The major of people don’t have cars so many had to hire mini-buses for the trip. There two main routes that could’ve been taken. Both start by going through the Czech Republic. One takes you through Slovakia, Hungary and Serbia before reaching Montenegro. The other is more scenic and beautiful. It takes you through Austria, Slovenia and Croatia along the Dalmatian coast before reaching Montenegro. The fans who took the direct route arrived in Montenegro without any problems. Some fans who travelled by car however were stuck at the border of Slovenia and Croatia for around ten to twelve hours. The police apparently found large amounts of flares and other pyrotechnics in their car. Eventually these were confiscated and the fans were allowed to pass but it damaged their potential showing the stadium and held them up costing them a huge amount of time.
Roughly five buses of fans crossing the border from Serbia to Montenegro had a different problem. In the Balkans it is common for away fans to be kept outside of a city by the police and then escorted to the stadium in time for kick-off. The Montenegrin police claimed to the Slask fans that this was their plan for them. It didn’t however turn out that way. They were kept in this car park roughly seventeen kilometres from the city and not allowed to leave. When it got close to kick-off the fans became anxious about potentially missing the game so decided to walk to the ground. The police then told the fans to go back to their buses and they would be taken to the ground. The fans naturally did as asked. The police had however lied to them and blocked them in the car park. They then beat fans that tried to get escape and smashed windows on minibuses when fans complained. These fans never made it to the game and were kept there for a long time before being escorted to the Serbian border and sent home. The fans had travelled for forty hours and did not get to see their team play.
This video shows where they were kept and the police officer smash their window amongst other things http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ODqoxqWB1IU&feature=player_embedded
Those Polish fans that were fortunate enough to make it Podgorica also entered into a very dangerous situation. Apparently local hooligans had been attacking anybody they heard speaking Polish. The Slask press officer was one of the victims of their violence. There were also reports of even women being beaten. Reports suggest that the police did little to stop the local fans from launching their attacks but reacted violently to Polish people who became involved in the action.
As a result of the problems on the streets a number of Polish fans were also locked out of the stadium and not allowed to enter. They were left on the streets outside of the stadium without any police protection with long gangs still looking for them. Once the fans inside the stadium had heard about this they wanted to leave the game immediately to protect their friends. The security guards and police however wouldn’t let them out. It resulted in many being beaten with batons. One fan was beaten so badly he was left unconscious and didn’t receive any medical treatment from the police or security inside the stadium. He was eventually taken to the hospital. The fans were not allowed to leave the ground until just before the end.
During the match the Slask fans were not able to put on the visual display that they had hoped for. As I mentioned earlier they lost a lot of flares at the border of Slovenia and Croatia. They also lost other flares when the Montenegrin police searched their buses. Only around six hundred of the one thousand travelling fans made it into the stadium due to either being held in the lay-by parking area by the cops or due to being refused entry into the ground. They still sung loudly and let off some pyrotechnics which is a pretty impressive showing given what had happened to them earlier in the day.
Here’s a quote from Slask player Mateusz Cetnarski describing his opinion on the events while being interviewed after the match: (translated by Michal Zachodny @polishscout)
You come out from the locker room full in emotions, but it’s not just a result of the match, is it?
– To begin with, we won this match after a very clever game. It seems to me that the second half was much better than the first. We controlled the course of the match, and the result is an incredible advantage before the second game at home, in front of our fans. And that’s about the match, because it seems to me that is enough. And what had happened before the match, outside the stadium, those voices that came to us – even from fans who have asked before the second half that we should waited for them… Montenegrin police behaved like barbarians. Apparently, they beat the families, children and people who came to the game from Poland. Nearly three hundred people were not let in, while police behaved like in the wild west. With respect to Montenegro, but they should behave like Europeans, and not as people who lived 300 years ago and had to fight with swords for their land. Lets behave as people should, especially as people should. It seems to me that we are brought up in a culture of respect for another person, and what’s going on here … and yet it is the police, I’m not even talking about rival fans, but the police, which is to protect and prevent evil, and at the same time they beat women and children that traveled thousands of miles for the team. It’s not the way it should be. Football should unite and not aim for this, that the police beat our fans, and here a very big minus in the direction of Montenegro. Let’s hope that we will never have to come here again.
Amazingly UEFA have punished Slask for what happened by fining them €40,000 and banning fans from travelling to their away leg for the next round. This is one of the most amazing miscarriages of justice I have heard about in a long-term. I understand that they are not in a position where they can fine the Montenegrin police for causing the conflicts because they have no power over police from any country. They should however have fined the home club and banned fans from attending their next game or two. To fine the victims in this situation is quite remarkable. Even the local Montenegrin hooligans have proudly taken responsibility for attacking Slask and have backed up their claims against the police.
The teams now meet again tonight for the second leg in Wroclaw. The Montenegrin government have warned Buducnost fans not to travel to Poland due to fear of revenge attacks. This claim is justified. As soon as the game in Montenegro ended there were plans being suggested and organised on internet groups for taking revenge. The Montenegrin government did however make a ridiculous claim suggesting that Poland isn’t safe due to the security being inefficient and used Euro 2012 as an example. This is particularly strange seeing as there wasn’t really any trouble at the Euros involved fans. The only major incident was the nationalist march and attacks by rival nationalists in Warsaw which involved mostly people who didn’t attend the football.
Apparently there are roughly one hundred Buducnost fans in Poland for the game. They police will most likely protect them the whole time to make sure there is no violence. The only change of potential violence is if the hooligans of Slask, Wisla and Lechia attack them on the street and penetrate the police escort. I can’t see much happening however as it wouldn’t be worth their whole to attack such a small number of people.
The return match will take place tonight at 7:45pm UK time (8:45pm CET). Slask are massive favourites to qualify for the next round where they will face the winner of the tie between TNS and Helsingborg which also takes place tonight.